Sunday, 13 August 2017


Trapped 400 hope Mrs May
Image result for trapped pictureswill help
A breakthrough this week in the  leaseholder scandal may give new hope to  an estimated 100,000 trapped leaseholders  and particularly the 400 Riverside Housing Association leaseholders in Carlisle.

The breakthrough came when a major national developer agreed to buy back some freeholds and axe their  ground rent clauses.

Countryside Properties, which sold some of the freeholds on its houses to a ground rent company  has agreed to buy a number of them back with a view to releasing homeowners from clauses where ground rents double every 10 years.

The trapped 400 in Carlisle got their properties from the city council and became Riverside leaseholders 15 years ago when Liverpool-based Riverside took over the council`s 8,000 council homes.

Since that time the trapped 400 have battled against rocketing Riverside  ground rent charges and other charges  made more intolerable by a rickety inefficient Riverside management organisation.

Several  efforts by the trapped 400 to organise themselves as a body in order to conduct the fight all failed or were sabotaged by Riverside.

 On two occasions, Riverside  brought county court actions against complaining leaseholders only to find that the judge threw out the cases and added critical comments about Riverside

After years of complaining and complete frustration, the trapped 400 managed to get the city council to help. The the council brought in an outside expert who addressed  their concerns at a public meeting.

Riverside reacted by trying to distance itself  and moved its rickety leaseholder administration  100 miles- from Carlisle to its head  office at Liverpool.

It is in Liverpool that Riverside`s long-distance  administration has continued. It is no more efficient than it was in Carlisle and is possibly worse because of the remoteness involved.

The trapped  400 are now hoping for help from Mrs May`s government which has recently proposed a ban on the future sale of houses as leasehold, as well as cutting ground rents to zero.

The hope is that the ban will be extended to present leaseholders.
 Carlisle Tenants` and Residents` Federation publishes this blog. Information about the Federation is available on 01228 522277 or 01228 532803

Monday, 31 July 2017


Carol Matthews:
a Grenfell U-turn?

 Critics of the Riverside property development company are today  wondering what is happening within that organisation as new worries emerge  for  the boss, Carol Matthews (left).

Ms Matthews has been telling the world about these new worries. She says she is a worrier and that causes her to have sleepless nights.

The new worries follow the Grenfell disaster  and the serious allegations that are now emerging .These allegations have put Ms Matthews very much into the firing line  along with hundreds of other housing bosses.

Ms Matthews says she now has “huge dilemmas” and goes on to speak of “feelings of guilt and an instinct to blame”.

She adds: “Guilt because the country has woken up to the fact that people living in social housing have a right to do so in safety, and as their landlords we have a solemn duty of care to them.”

Ms Matthews is Chief Executive of the giant Riverside Housing Association of Liverpool which in recent years has been transformed into a  profit – making property development organisation.

She makes her comments in an article  published in the latest issue of the social housing trade paper, Inside Housing.
Image result for sleepless nights pictures The article makes no mention of Ms Matthews` sleepless nights,  unlike a similar article she wrote a couple of years ago.(In that article she asked readers for sympathy for her sleeplessness which she said was  caused by her organisation`s  £100 million bill  following government - imposed rent cuts.)

But the current article does mention a certain Grenfell story which she says is developing    a story of inequality, the contrast between the high tower for the poor and the sprawling mansions below for the rich with little in between.

About the poor, she says housing associations “must have the courage speak out – on behalf of customers who do not have a strong voice, and on behalf of our sector, which is sometimes flawed but is overwhelmingly a force for good”.

Housing associations also need to tell a positive story of a sector as interested in quality as it is in quantity and that wants to achieve value for money.

“And tell a story of providers whose very purpose is to reduce inequality by giving people a chance of a decent home and of putting their life back on track.”

Ms Matthews adds:“ Let’s work as one to reposition social housing, the people and communities we serve and the contribution that together we make to a fairer, safer society.

“Above all, let’s ensure that we continue to listen as well as speak, particularly to our customers.

“That means staying determined to seek out their views on the homes and services we provide, always responding positively to their ideas on how we can improve, and treating complaints and concerns as a gift, not a nuisance.”

Critics of Riverside now want to know:

What  is going on within the Riverside housing organisation?

Why this  sudden change of direction?

Is Riverside regretting its shift from being a social organisation to becoming a property development organisation with the emphasis on profit?

Perhaps there is a clue in one paragraph of Ms Matthews article. After urging other housing bosses to work to “re-position social housing”she says this:

“In the same way that the sinking of the Titanic was seen as a symbol of an unequal social order that was soon to unravel in the Edwardian era, could Grenfell become a 21st century symbol for the consequences of market economics as applied to social policy?

“Only time will tell”.

A spokesman for Carlisle Tenants and Residents` Federation, one of Riverside`s biggest critics and  publishers of  the blog Community Voice Carlise had this to say:

“ Ms Matthews told the world about her sleepless nights a couple of years ago. In a light-hearted comment, this blog suggested that the remedy was a hot cup of Horlicks at bedtime.

“What  we overlooked was that a sure-fire cure for sleepless nights was to actually get out of bed, or possibly to turn over in bed and sleep on the other side.

“From Ms Matthews latest article it seems that Ms Matthews has made one of these reverse moves. Her article points to a complete reverse of policy and direction for her Riverside organisation.

“Whether readers of Inside Housing will believe there has been a reversal is another matter.

“Certainly, from the rubbish in Ms Matthews` article  Riverside`s 50,000 home owners will take a lot of convincing .

“Riverside  remains a bossy, undemocratic and non -accountable organisation.

“Duty of care?

“Sixty Longtown tenants with £4,000- energy bills will reply: `Don’t make us laugh`”

 Carlisle Tenants` and Residents` Federation publishes this blog. Information about the Federation is available on 01228 522277 or 01228 532803